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Archive for the ‘Mystery’ Category

The Nice Guys

Monday, May 23rd, 2016

tn_niceguysHolland March (Ryan Gosling, Kung Fu: The Legend Continues) is an alcoholic widower single father bottom-feeding private eye hired by an old lady (Lois Smith, KILLSHOT) for a case that has him following a young woman named Amelia (Margaret Qualley, PALO ALTO). Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe, NO WAY BACK) is a divorced thug hired by Amelia to beat up the people following her, i.e. March. When some other guys (Beau Knapp, the great Keith David) attack Healy at his apartment asking for Amelia he decides to go back to March and hire him to help find Amelia and ask her what’s going on. So by trying to cut down on getting beat up this unlikely pair gets gummed up in a case involving a dead porn star and a corporate collusion conspiracy.

Of the two, the detective seems like the dumb one. But he has good luck and a smart daughter, 13-year-old Holly (Angourie Rice, WALKING WITH DINOSAURS 3D) who nancy drews him through the mystery. March is also a total coward who screams like a little girl and gives up information at the slightest threat. Healy behaves much more professionally, though he still does stupid shit like forget his brass knuckles at home when he goes to beat somebody up. And then it’s too late to drive back and get them.

That’s because this is the latest from Shane Black, as both director and writer (with Anthony Bagarozzi), so it’s a twisty, complex mystery, a serious detective story but with frequent laughs from characters doing the wrong thing or the weird thing or saying what you’re not supposed to say. Goofing on tropes but also respecting their usefulness. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Radioland Murders

Monday, February 8th, 2016

tn_radiolandlucasminusstarwarsRADIOLAND MURDERS is a retro comedy, a madcap murder mystery taking place in 1939 as a Chicago radio station has a gala live broadcast performed in front of an audience and a room full of big shot affiliates waiting to be impressed. There’s a big band and actors doing adventure shows and commercials while the writers, directors and sound engineers scramble to have something on the air after the boss just tossed out all of their scripts. Meanwhile, writer Roger (Brian Benben, I COME IN PEACE) is pathetically trying to woo back his wife Penny (Mary Stuart Masterson, GARDENS OF STONE), who thinks he cheated on her. It was a misunderstanding, but he’s too much of a doofus to make her understand.

And then he becomes the #1 suspect when people in the station start turning up dead. So he has to avoid the police, solve the mystery, convince his wife and finish some scripts. Kind of a rough day for him.

The DVD cover brags about an “All star cast!,” which is stretching it, but the huge ensemble cast does include an impressive lineup of character actors, some of them better known now than they were then. You also got Ned Beatty, Brion James (BLADE RUNNER, 48 HOURS), Michael Lerner (MANIAC COP 2), Michael McKean, Jeffrey Tambor, Stephen Tobolowsky, Christopher Lloyd, Larry Miller (FOODFIGHT!), Corbin Bernsen, Bobcat Goldthwait, Dylan Baker, Robert Klein and Harvey Korman (The Star Wars Holiday Special). Candy Clark and Bo Hopkins of the AMERICAN GRAFFITI saga show up together. Since there’s sort of a variety show going on at the center of it there are appearances by Rosemary Clooney, George Burns, Joey Lawrence (as a dreamy crooner) and even Billy Barty (WILLOW). Also Gary Anthony Williams, the voice of Uncle Ruckus on The Boondocks, made his first movie appearance. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Sweet Sixteen

Sunday, October 25th, 2015

tn_sweetsixteenslashersearch15“Now you listen to me, every one of ya, you listen damn close. Because if anybody in this town decides to take the law into their own hands, I’ll be on your ass like junebug on shit. I hope I make myself understood and pardon me ladies.”

SWEET SIXTEEN is a low budget 1983 slasher mystery shot in Texas. It seems promising at first because it has a certain level of filmmaking competence, an enjoyably corny theme balled called “Melissa,” sung by Frank Sparks, and a cool logo with a knife for a T.

That is not to say that it ever seems good. The aforementioned Melissa (Aleisa Shirley, SPACEHUNTER: ADVENTURES IN THE FORBIDDEN ZONE) is first seen during a long, sensuous, narratively (though not hygenically) gratuitous shower. From there we cut to a bunch of drunk rednecks (including Don Stroud) at a bar, play fighting and hugging their buddies until an elderly Native American man named Greyfeather (the final role of Henry Wilcoxon, CLEOPATRA, SAMSON AND DELILAH, THE TEN COMMANDMENTS) walks in. They immediately start racisting the shit out of him until young Native tough Jason Longshadow (Don Shanks, Michael Myers in HALLOWEEN 5) comes in to protect him with a knife.

Melissa, being the new girl in town, walks up to Longshadow in the parking lot and asks if he wants to “ditch the old man and go party.” As he bluntly rejects her a couple of the racists yell at him that he’s “into little girls.” He starts walking in their direction and they run away like they’re being chased by a bear. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Lord of Illusions

Friday, August 28th, 2015
RELEASE DATE: August 16th
RELEASE DATE: August 25th

tn_lordofillusionsAccording to Wikipedia, August and September are considered “dump months,” “when there are lowered commercial and critical expectations for most new releases.” And it has long been conventional wisdom that August is a crappy month for movies, when all the worst summer shit gets squirted out so the studios can be rid of it.

“For moviegoers, August also represents the nadir of Hollywood’s output each year,” writes Chris Hicks of Deseret News, summing up the belief of everybody else and everybody else’s uncle. Back in 2008, Vulture even did a study called “The August Movie: A Theory of Awfulness” which calculated that “the studios have put out 169 lousy movies in the past fifteen Augusts, and merely 26 halfway-decent ones.”

Release patterns have been changing in the years since, and few will deny the success and quality of GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, or that it’s starting to become part of the Oscar season (best picture winners and contenders including ARGO, BIRDMAN, 12 YEARS A SLAVE and GRAVITY have come out in August). Last year Josh Rottenberg of the L.A. Times wondered “Is August no longer filled with Hollywood’s dog days?”

But I’m here to tell you that August was always a month full of promise. Sure, pre-GUARDIANS a studio wasn’t about to release a potential blockbuster smash at the end of the summer. But it’s a good spot for things that are a little more interesting, that they think might have potential but are maybe not for mainstream people. In fact, that’s my favorite type of movie. If you look at that Vulture study you can see that it’s based on an elitist mindset that dismisses movies on the basis of being lowbrow genre movies, even if they’re high watermarks for us. Their alleged 169 “lousy” movies included action pictures we love like HARD TARGET, DESPERADO and BLADE. And even a best picture nominee and universally beloved classic like BABE is only allowed to be “halfway-decent.” (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

From Tarzana to Miracle Mile: the under-the-radar films of Steve De Jarnatt

Tuesday, July 28th, 2015

tn_miraclemileBI’ve already reviewed MIRACLE MILE and CHERRY 2000, the two feature films directed by Steve De Jarnatt. But today both are released on fancy new Blu-Ray (and DVD) editions from Kino Lorber, with commentary tracks and other extras like you used to do when you were expected to put effort into these sort of things. MIRACLE MILE is finally in the proper aspect ratio, and has a reunion of most of the supporting cast inside Johnie’s Coffee Shop, where a pivotal chunk of the movie takes place. They have Brian Thompson, Kurt Fuller, Denise Crosby, Kelly Jo Minter, O-Lan Jones… even the damn phone booth!

Most exciting for me, I was able to see TARZANA, the never-on-video, not-even-on-Youtube black and white noir short that got De Jarnatt noticed by Hollywood. I wrote about it all in this new piece for The Scarecrow Wire, the blog of Seattle’s non-profit Scarecrow Video, so please read it. (And if you feel the urge to comment over there it will make me look good. If it’s a nice comment. Don’t write about butts or farting or anything, you guys.)

If you’re in the area, De Jarnatt will be doing a signing and Q&A as well as presenting TARZANA at Scarecrow Video this Thursday at 7 pm.

 

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Gone Girl

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

tn_gonegirlGONE GIRL is the new David Fincher popular fiction adaptation, another murder mystery but this time I guess you could say with a lighter touch than SEVEN, ZODIAC or THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO. Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck, PAYCHECK) comes home on his fifth anniversary to find his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike, DOOM) missing. They were unhappy and he’s not good at faking it, so suspicion quickly falls on him. Meanwhile Amy had a tradition of leaving a series of clues for an anniversary treasure hunt, initially romantic, these days bitter and mean. While Nick and lead investigator Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens, HOLLOW MAN) follow the trail of cute riddles, we start to see Amy’s diary entries telling the story of their relationship from her perspective. And this may shock you but it eventually turns out that there’s more to the story!

This is one that you really need to see without knowing any more than that, so I’m not even gonna attempt a spoiler-wary review. From this point on don’t read unless you’ve already seen it or are mortally wounded and aren’t gonna make it another 2 hours and 25. In which case thank you, I am honored and flattered that you chose to live out your last moments here on outlawvern.com. You know I hope this isn’t too forward of me but if you don’t have any heirs and it’s not too much to ask maybe consider making a bunch of expensive purchases through my Amazon links before you kick. I really appreciate it man, thanks alot bud and good luck to you. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

A Walk Among the Tombstones

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

tn_tombstonesSometimes a man just has to walk among the tombstones, you know? Stroll within the grave markers. Saunter betwixt the memorials. Seagal did it in PISTOL WHIPPED and now my man Liam Neeson (THE DEAD POOL) is taking a turn. He’s doing it in a mystery thriller based on book #10 in a series by Lawrence Block. The movie version is written and directed by Scott Frank, the guy that wrote OUT OF SIGHT, so it’s more about capturing that crime novel feel than being another Neeson vehicle like UNKNOWN or NON-STOP. That said, he is allowed to be awesome, and there are some scuffles.

Admittedly the opening scene is better than anything else in the movie. It’s a flashback to 1991, but has a ’70s feel. Stringy-haired, racial-slur-using asshole police detective Matthew Scudder (Neeson) walks into an empty bar where cops get free drinks. And this is how you know he sucks: the bartender greets him by name, and he doesn’t even say hi or look at him. He just knocks on the counter and then sits down at a booth with his back to him. Fuck you, man! I guarantee you this prick doesn’t tip either. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Sabotage

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

tn_sabotageBListen all y’all, SABOTAGE is a great vehicle for Arnold Schwarzenegger right now. It’s a good mix of what you expect from him and what you don’t. It’s a movie that benefits from his Huge Movie Star presence. He can just walk in and the legendary badass backstory of his character, DEA squad leader John “Breacher” Wharton, manifests physically before our eyes. He can strut and bark commands and joke and you fully believe that his unruly team of trained killers – even big Joe Manganiello, who towers over him – respect, fear, and look up to him like he’s their dad.

I think this here is the perfect approach to Old Man Arnold: not making self-deprecating jokes like in the okay THE LAST STAND, but just being Arnold while proudly rocking a thick stripe of white hair around the edges. Yeah, I’m 66, who the fuck cares? I’m Arnold. Are you gonna be Arnold when you get to be my age?
(read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Devil in a Blue Dress

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

tn_devilinabluedressIt looks like  I’m continuing my informal and logo-free History of Black Film series a little bit into March. It could be argued that this is because I got side-tracked writing about ROBOCOP and then went out of town and got snowed in there and got behind schedule on my reviews. But in my opinion I’m really doing it in protest of the injustice of Black History Month being slotted in the shortest month.

I also want to admit that at the beginning I said I was gonna be exploring obscure black action stars, then instead I’ve been looking at lesser known black directors, not really the same thing at all. That’s not because the whole thing was poorly planned and thought out on my part, it’s because you gotta be fluid about these things and follow your creative instincts.

DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS is another one where a black director adapts one installment in a mystery series by a black writer. Not that that’s a big category, I’m just saying that’s a parallel to COTTON COMES TO HARLEM. The director is Carl Franklin (ONE FALSE MOVE), the author is Walter Mosley and the mystery-solver is Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins, later a private eye but as of this story an a WWII vet laid off from an airplane factory having a hard time getting work until a white P.I. played by Tom Sizemore (SPOILER: I don’t know if you should trust this guy) pays him to look for a white woman (Jennifer Beals) who hangs out in black underground clubs that a white man (but not white woman) would have trouble slipping into without causing a problem.
(read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

The Bird With the Crystal Plumage

Friday, October 25th, 2013

tn_birdwithcrystalTHE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE is a Dario Argento movie I hadn’t seen before. This is his directational debut, so it shows what he was up to before the ones I’m most familiar with, DEEP RED, SUSPIRIA and INFERNO. He’s not yet the sicko artiste who made those three, but you can see him headed in that direction.

An American writer (Tony Musante) visiting Italy happens to be walking across the street from an art gallery one night when he sees a struggle going on inside. He runs over but can’t get into the large, plate glass storefront. He knocks on the window but is forced to just watch as a stabbed woman lays bleeding on the floor inside. Then he gets trapped behind another wall of glass. Another passerby brings cops in time to save the woman, but this American at the scene of the crime, and planning to leave the country soon, that doesn’t look too good. So they confiscate his passport.
(read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.